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Confused Leafs bouncing from pillar to post

It gets very annoying to feel like I am, far too often, writing critically about the Maple Leafs.  I’ve long said here that I want this to be a positive site, one that brings hockey and Maple Leaf fans together—not a place that sees us always do the easy thing:  pick at the team and find faults all the time. (So a warning: if you're not in the mood for what's coming, click off right now.  I will absolutely understand...)

But lately, I find I’m having to fight (not always successfully) the temptation to harangue the organization—not the players so much, but team management.  Why do I feel this way?  Partly because Burke was so arrogant upon his arrival (and subsequently) in his not-so-subtle condemnation of his predecessors like Pat Quinn when he said things like, “I’m not the guy that traded for Owen Nolan…”.  His inference?  Judge him on his time with the club, not on what came before him.  Fair enough.

But unfortunately, when you say things like that, you are clearly throwing the people who came before you under the bus.  So while I don’t like the cheap shot at Quinn, I’ll set that aside and look briefly at Burke’s track record in Toronto.

As I’ve long acknowledged here, Burke has absolutely made progress (and yes, despite the recent skid, there has been progress) here.  We’re a faster team.  Until recently we were pretty entertaining many nights.  The Marlies are a better team.  There is more depth in the system.  (I can’t argue it is proven depth at this point, but we certainly have more players with potential than we have in a long while…)

The truth is, however, Burke is finding it is not as easy as he thought it would be to build a winner in Toronto.

I often mention his comment (stated many times, so it wasn’t just an off-the-cuff, one-time statement) that he had no patience for a “five-year re-build” when he took this job.  That was three and a half years ago.  He has done things to expedite the process, starting with the Kessel trade.  And that’s fine.  We all wanted him to shake things up, and he has.  But based on certain key fundamental criteria, Burke has not accomplished what I would have hoped for, by now.

Why do I say this?

Since he claims he “always” build teams from the back end out, I assumed we would have excellent goaltending by now.  I love that Reimer (but be honest, it was a shock to all, including Burke and most fans) stole the limelight last year.  And it’s great now that Gustavsson (as I’ve suggested in this space many times) is finally getting a run of games and is playing closer to the way I think he can, using his athleticism and instincts.

But really, can we say we have a settled goaltending situation?  I guess I figured we would by now.

Also, I never thought we would quite possibly not be in the playoffs by Burke’s fourth spring at the helm.  Be honest—did anybody?

Finally, I figured yes, we would one day change coaches and when we did, it would be at a time that made strategic sense:  as in, when there was time for the players to adjust to a completely different style of play.  For example, in the summer—and well before training camp.  Instead, he made a panic move to fire Wilson, bring in Carlyle- without taking the time this spring to see who the best available coach is for the most important hockey franchise in the world. (I’m not knocking Carlyle.  Maybe he is the best available coach in the world.  He must be in Burke’s eyes.)  But again, let’s not pretend that, while Burke was doing this for the “longer term”, he also believed Carlyle would light a fire and lead the Leafs to the playoffs this spring.

That may not happen, after the Leafs have stumbled through the last three weeks of Wilson’s tenure and the first few games of the Carlyle era.

I want to be clear:  I’m not passing judgment on Carlyle’s first ten days on the job.  I’ve said here—and elsewhere—that any assessments made prematurely about in-season coaching changes generally mean precious little.  We will be well into next season, or later, before we see the likely effects.

But here’s the thing; this far into Burke’s tenure, we are now bringing in a coach who wants and needs certain types of players.  What does this mean?  Well, it may mean that guys like Kessel—who Burke moved heaven and earth for to get here—may not fit.

So are we re-building again?  Because we need players who will play the way Carlyle wants them to play, right?  And this, after Burke was  seemingly “all in” on the way Wilson’s Leafs were playing- that free-wheeling, offensive, head-manning, entertaining style? (Except, we found out later,  that Burke likes a rougher team than Wilson.  That was a long time to let that fundamental philosophical distinction between GM and coach continue…Wow.)

So will we stop one re-build and start another—with yet more new players?  We’re now going to get rougher again, it seems.  Didn’t Burke say not long ago there was no place for guys like Colton Orr any more?  (He was publicly upset about it, but that’s what he said about where the game was going…)

We’ve already tried the whole over-discussed “truculent” thing.  Komisarek, Orr,  Rosehill, et all.

How did that go?

So now we’re back to that?  Gone is the speed game, replaced by a defensive pre-occupation that borders on well, let’s just say it’s dull.  (But hey, maybe it will be ultimately effective.)

But I know, I know.  People will say:  what do we care, as long as we win.

True.  True.  And maybe when we “win”, I’ll jump on board a bit less grudgingly than what I feel right now.  At the moment, I feel like I’m in limbo.  And whether they will admit it or not (they won't), you better believe the players are playing like they feel they are wearing sunglasses out there.  Obsessed with impressing a new guy, their defensive play and not making a positioning mistake—all while playing "tough" and squeezing their sticks so hard at the other end of the ice, as scoring chances drop and losses keep piling up.

Yes, the goalies (Gus, in this case) look better.  Absolutely.  Of course, almost anyone would under this “system”.

Again, I’m not saying Carlyle, boring style and all, won’t bring more success to the Leafs.   They are playing hard, competing and all that.   In truth, they did that under Wilson too.  In fact, that’s what people often said over the years, that under Wilson, the Leafs weren’t very talented, but they sure played hard.

And, they were entertaining.  But over the past month, they started to lose under Wilson.

Now they’re boring—and they, at least for the moment,  are still struggling to win.

I’ll I’m trying to say, perhaps none too clearly (blame watching too much losing hockey…but they, that’s an excuse…no complaints and no excuses here…) is that, bottom line, the Leafs have not achieved (yet) what I hoped they would under Burke.  And it’s an odd time to have changed everything—coaches, systems— in the middle of the game.

Fans can feel optimistic if they’d like, and say things like, “Ashton sure looks like a nice player”.  Well, so would almost anyone trying to make an impression in his first few games as a Leaf.  We said that same thing in recent years about Schenn, Kadri, Colborne, Frattin, insert name here…

My point?  The Ashton call-up was not based on meritocracy. That is Burke desperately trying to prove he did something at the deadline, that he made a good trade, that Ashton is a player.  Otherwise, how, under our “meritocracy”, could he possibly have been the guy who deserved a call-up over Ryan Hamilton, the captain of the Marlies, or someone who has played hard for the Marlies for the past couple of season (I’m just using Hamilton as an example)?

And that’s the point.  The lack of success has led to changing things in mid-stream, and now they’re just grasping at any straw that flies by.  Gus makes a few nice saves.  Play him—not because the brass believes in him, or even thinks he’ll be here next fall, but the team is, you know, desperate.

Fire the coach.  Sure.  Even though we just gave him an extension (and on that note, how many times have I written here about that very thing—extend a coach when you win a few games and the next thing you know, you want to fire him…).

Need some punch?  Last season it was nonsensically bringing Kadri up in the fall of the 2010-’11 season to save the sinking ship and score goals for a dream that couldn't find the net.  It didn’t work.  Now it’s Ashton to bring...what?   There is no real sense to it.  Just optics to make the GM look good.

Hey, Aston may be a really fine player.  But that’s not really the point, is it.

Yes…that’s where we’ve fallen.  We may start winning between now and the end of the regular season, but to me, it looks like we’re just making it up as we go.  

22 comments:

  1. Well, as you know Michael, I'm not so polite about it. Based on results, Burke's tenure has been a disaster. We're no further ahead after 4 years. We'll miss the playoffs again - guaranteed. If I'm wrong, I'll take you to a game next year. Who knows - the way we're playing, we may not win till April. Or score till St Patrick's day. We stink. Period. The coaching change, and its timing, was a panic move that took the heart and soul out of the players (not to mention many fans). There will be blood, as the film title says, come the summer. As I've said before, I expect at least one major personnel change, of a so-called "untouchable".
    And who's suddenly going to get better? Grabovski? (Sorry KidK) Where the hell has he been since he hit the jackpot? For that matter, where have all the jackpot hitters been - Schenn, MacArthur, Kulemin? Do we really think they're suddenly going to morph into Bruins type forwards next year? For crying out loud, Ashton was the best player today. That's just plain pathetic, on a possibly season-saving game. (though the players, like many of us, know this season's toast).
    Burke said he doesn't like 5 year plans - who knew what he liked was 10 year plans?

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  2. Thanks Gerund O'. It's a difficult situation. And now we appear to need a new type of player to work effectively under Carlyle....

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  3. "And now we appear to need a new type of player to work effectively under Carlyle...."
    Ironically, as far as the forwards are concerned, it's the type of player we've needed all along, but simply has not been delivered. Big, with speed, tough on the puck, willing to muck it out in front of the net... As some were saying the other day, Burke must be the worst judge of hockey talent working in a major market, and certainly one of the worst in the league. If you watched the Bruins/Pens game on Sunday, you saw a brand of hockey we haven't seen from the Leafs for at least a decade. I don't know why we put up with it.

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  4. What more is there to say? Burke has been flailing about as you say since the beginning of Febuary. The Ashton call-up is nothing more than you say, a face saving move by a GM who's every move this year seems to be reactionary rather sticking to a plan. To look back at the deadline and say "there was nothing worth blowing up a team over" and "that it would wreck what they have done over the last 4 years" is nothing but ass covering. What have they achieved here in 4 years? Restocking the cupboard you say? I reply yeah they restocked it so much so that the last call up of the year was a guy they had traded for less than a week ago. What happened to all the other pieces in the system, were none worthy of being called up? If so what the hell does that say about the so called depth that is supposedly there?
    Look Ashton might be as you mentioned a nice player but a difference maker, hardly. What is he? To me he looks like another one of those 3rd line guys who isn't quite good enough to a legitimate top 6. In other words exactly what we already (albeit more in the Carlye mold more physical, less offense) have. I guess that must be the new plan, get rid of Wilson style 3rd and 4th liners and bring in Carlye 3rd and 4th line wingers. I think this year the Leaf brass really expected to get to the next level. Then when it all started going south they just didn't know what to do. They had no plan B when plan A didn't go as expected. Now they have no plan just a bunch of random seeming moves to save face and to try and buy time for the next big panic move. I said it a couple of weeks ago the only thing they have left is hope and hope is not a plan.

    BTW Gerund O' I am also thinking that there is going to be major personnel moves this summer. It would not suprise me in the least if 2 of Phanuef, Kessel and Lupul are moved. In fact it won't suprise me if any player is gone after this year. After 4 years of swinging and missing the brass should not be thinking any player is untouchable, core or not.

    One last thing I hope we all like this style of hockey because it is what we get for the next couple of years at least. The 8th highest scoring team in the league has 9 goals in 5 games under the new guy. At least under Wilson, even when they lost they were still entertaining. But at least now they have more pointless fights.

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  5. Long suffering Leafs fanMarch 12, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Thanks for your honesty Mike. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I do know one thing this team is an incomprehensible mess! That begins with the top. If the man who is running the show has a difference in philosophy with one of his top employees, do you not think you would part ways much sooner. Why would you wait until well into year three of your plan? It just doesn't make sense. As stated in Friday's topic, Mr. Burke has committed major carnal sins when it comes to building a winning hockey team. No question, he has built up the system with prospects, but as you well pointed out, how many of them will be "productive" at the NHL level. Sorry, but I am beginning to fear that Mr. Burke really wasn't the right man for the GM job for our beloved Leafs. As one pundit said, "Burkie will other do a excellent job in Toronto or he will make a bigger mess than what it already is because his giant size ego will get in the way".

    After all the moves that Mr. Burke has made at the helm, I cannot believe that our Leafs are worst off than Florida and Ottawa! How despondent can it get???

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  6. Gerund O'...I think that's the irony here. The type of players that we now supposedly "need" are not really just Carlyle-type players, or Burke-type players. They are the kind of guys any team needs to be successful: tough on the puck, etc. all the things you cited above..

    I keep calling it team toughness. We can call it what we want. The point is we shouldn't be this far into a "build" and still not have enough of the kind of players you need to win in the playoffs.

    Thanks.

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  7. Well said, as always, Willbur.

    The Ashton call-up is just one example, but it rings hollow for me. He may be a very nice player, but c'mon, he "earned" the call-up?

    So many irritating things, and you've cited some of them. Thanks.

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  8. Thanks Long Suffering. I think people have missed the point raised in this point, and that you highlight as well. How could a GM keep a coach for three and a half years, and have a serious, fundamental difference in opinion on how the team should be constructed and/or how they should play?

    And your point on Ottawa and Florida are well taken. I thought Ottawa would be lucky to win 15 games this season. And Tallon has done more in much less time tan Burke has.

    Things may be different in a year. Maybe Ottawa is a mirage. Same with Florida. But they are moving toward the playoffs, at least for this season.

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  9. Michael, I share your pains with the team and management. Like many, I expected better results this year. Despite that, I'm not as disheartened as some.

    Let me review a couple of key points:

    1) Goaltending: We knew coming into this season that we were going with two young and inexperienced goaltenders. There was risk with that. I thought Burke was over-confident with his goaltending coming into this season, however bringing in a veteran would not in my mind guarantee success. A good goalie can steal one or two games a year, but otherwise their success is more based on how the team plays in front of them. Look at the Leafs, they're the second to worse team in the NHL in goals against. I for one don't blame the goaltending for that. The team defence has been horrible. The only reason the #Leafs did well from October-January was the offence was doing well. Whenever the offence faltered that left their team defence exposed and suddenly our goaltenders are blamed. My verdict on Reimer and Gustavsson is still not out, but I do not blame them or hold them responsible for the team's failure. With the exception of one or two elite goalies, there is no veteran goalie out there who could have saved this season with the way the Leafs defensive system played.

    2) Coaching: I agree with you 100% about the timing of Wilson's extension. Burke was foolish to extend him at that time. Making matters worse was when the team started its freefall in February, Wilson was throwing his goalies under the bus, and Burke was starting to believe Wilson, and wouldn't face the fact he should not have extended the coach.

    3) Style of play: Burke likes a tough physical team. He hasn't really built one yet. He has some smaller players who try to play tough, but the only true power forward he has is Lupul. Guys like Rosehill and Orr are simply bruisers. The days of a pure enforcer (such as Orr) are gone. Rosehill has okay speed, and can play, but Wilson and Carlyle would both prefer to play Brown over Rosehill. The two main differences I think between Carlyle and Wilson are that Carlyle prefers a true top 6 bottom 6 mentality, and places more importance on team defencive systems. Wilson always focussed on transitioning to the offence, getting the puck up and pressuring with the forecheck. Although Carlyle's systems are less exciting to watch, he'll eventually get better results and build a team that can do more than simply make the playoffs.

    Burke didn't improve the team enough in the off season, but he made enough improvement that the team should have made the playoffs. Coaching let him down. The players let their coach down too.

    I thought your comments on Ashton were a bit unfair and a bit of a red herring. He was brought up to fill in for some injuries and they needed a winger with size. At the same time they wanted to see what the kid could do. It was a worthwhile callup, but I wouldn't read more into it than that.

    This will be another important off-season for Burke. I was less than excited by some of his moves (or lack therof) this season. There is some dead weight on this team that needs to be cleared out, and a couple of significant holes that need filling. I don't see it as a 5-year rebuild. This team has the nucleus it needs to move ahead.

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  10. Good stuff, TML__fan, well said.

    We differ on the Ashton call-up. But we all see things differently and that's why these forums are fun and a great (and respectful) exchange of ideas. I'll stand by my point in the post, but I hear what you're saying, for sure.

    With regard to the "5-year rebuild" reference, I am referring to comments made when Burke first took over. He boldly made it clear he had no patience for that, when in fact it was obvious it would take time. He over-promised and has under-delivered, never a good thing in a leader of any company.

    I'm not suggesting he is saying it will now take five more years to build this team into a contender. Better not!

    Thanks TML__fan.

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  11. m not sure about the reasoning for the ashton call up either. my thinking was also that he was called up because they needed someone with size who would grind, because that is what carlyle's style of play calls for. I doubt he would have been called up if Wilson was still coaching...

    also, for those who are thinking that carlye's team will be boring like the last two games, i dont agree. with anaheim his last 3 years they were 11th, 7th, and 14th in the league in goals. not lighting it up, but actually pretty decent. I can live with middle of the pack scoring if the teams play better in the defensive zone. but maybe i am just tired of the zero defense we've been getting the last 4 years.

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  12. Thanks Anon...I think most of us would like to see defensive accountability and Carlyle will help deliver that. Anaheim in recent years has had more offensive pop than the Leafs have right now, and Carlyle was in charge there, so yes, his "system" should not necessarily mean boring hockey, or a team that lacks offense. Thanks.

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  13. I am not feeling as negative at the moment as the general tenor I am sensing this morning (I guess we process things differently). On Carter Ashton: It is a shame that the negativity surrounding Leaf management should dampen Leaf fans’ reception of him. I think we can all agree that the “meritocracy” concept has done little more than expose managerial hypocrisy. Therefore, we might as well move beyond it, and pray that we are not served up any more of that baloney. As far as Ashton goes, along with Frattin, to me he looks like the type of player the Leafs will need moving forward. His potential is really unknown at this time, so maybe we need to take a collective deep breath and not judge Ashton's future based on his current employer’s transgressions.

    Without being a fly on the ACC wall, I was taken aback by the Draconian nature of Wilson’s firing. While I believe fan-based criticism essential, I deplore mob behavior. I do not believe that Wilson deserved that, and frankly I am happy to have missed the callous chanting. (Then again, I am also glad that my financial investment in the Leafs, unlike the ticket-buying public, is limited to NHL Center Ice.) When Michael called on Burke to employ some of Lou Lamoriello’s methods, I took it to mean shifting Wilson into another position while allowing one of the other coaches to take the reigns, even if temporarily. Isn’t that what Lamoriello would have done? Surely Wilson could step back, assume some other task, and then Burke could revisit the situation in the off-season? Why such a Draconian move at this point in time? Was Wilson's firing more panic or internal politics? I sure would be interested to know.

    Maybe Wilson’s run and gun (I don’t know what else to call it) system has no chance of post-season success? Or, maybe he is a visionary a tad short of a full set of tools? I do not know the answer to that either. Carlyle’s system is so radically different from Wilson’s that it is nothing if not instructive. As most would now agree, goaltending was not the bigger problem. I am not sure how even the most elite NHL goaltender would have fared with the previous defensive system, especially when it broke down (as I like say, goal is a team not individual position). The late-season change, which was so radical, appears to have sapped the offense and resulted in improved defensive play with periodic, catastrophic breakdowns. We saw two in yesterday’s game each of which resulted in goals.

    The players are trying to adapt quickly, but it seems to be too much too soon to result in a turnaround this year. They may also have the wrong type of player, in many instances, for the Carlyle system. To me, that now bigger personnel problem is the real danger in Burke’s Draconian move. If there is a bright side, it might be that Carter Ashton is the type of player that Burke will need given the situation he is tied to for the foreseeable future.

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  14. Well thought-out post as always, Bobby C.

    To some of your points: I am not (not that you are suggesting I am) anti-Ashton. He may well be a fine, rugged, two-way forward. That would be great if it turns out that way. I just tend to believe that this was more Burke trying to salvage something out of a dismal second-half, as in, he made this one deal, here's the guy we got and he's already in the NHL:...

    So there was no mis-understanding of my reference before the pre-trade deadline to Burke possibly "pulling a Lamoriello". In that post, I was not suggesting that Wilson be fired. I was wondering if Burke might have reached a threshold where he would consider firing his coach, even though it was already very late in the season. (I invoked Lamoriello's name because he did precisely that many years ago, when he replaced Robbie Ftorek with just a few games left in the season...he may well have done the same thing with Claude Julien, I'm trying to remember. One time it "worked" and they won the Cup, I believe, with Larry Robinson, who had been an assistant coach. The other time Lou took over himself, and that did not go so well...)

    With regard to the players now working feverishly to adapt to Carlyle's system, that is indeed part of what I was trying to get at in my post. While the objective, long-term, may be laudable (a coach with a more defensively-oriented system, etc.), I'm not sure the timing made sense. The team was just as apt to start winning some games under Wilson (see Ottawa, after a slump where it looked like their early-season efforts had been wasted and they rebounded) as under a new mentor.

    I don't doubt that Carlyle and Burke are on the same page in terms of personnel needs. But hopefully this doesn't have to mean another complete roster overhaul- though I'm not really sure how many Carlyle-"type" players we have in the system right now. Everyone looks good at first when they are trying to impress....

    Thanks Bobby....

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  15. As for Ashton... it didn't seem odd to me. Maybe it's my glass half-empty goggles, but I think management knew the season was done. Injuries meant someone had to come up - why not take a look at the new guy? I have to believe that if management thought we'd had a chance, we'd have seen someone else - our old pal Kadri, for example. The worrisome thing is - who else could have been brought up if we were in contention?

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  16. Yes, I was suggesting that there is a sour mood among fans coinciding with the promotion of Carter Ashton, which is unfortunate. I suppose that now we have the red herring of “meritocracy” disposed of, we can presume that Ashton’s promotion has to do with the suitability of his size and skill set to emerging needs of the Leafs’ team, his young age, and possibly, yes possibly a political motivation to do with appearances of managerial success. Nevertheless, I like what I am seeing so far, and think that he could be a good long-term fit. Aulie = good player, Ashton = better fit at this time. I thought that I understood what you were saying before about Ron Wilson, Michael; a sideways move for Wilson that need not necessarily be permanent. Am I right …? This is where information about the internal politics would be interesting. I certainly wrote about Wilson’s stumbling, particularly around the question of goaltending management, and suggested that his stubbornness was apt to end in his demise, but I am not sure I saw the need for such a Draconian move. If only our apparently schizophrenic “Anon” worked in the Leafs office. Then it might all be easier to understand …

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  17. Gerund O'...I think the question you raise (who would have been called up if we were in serious contention to make a run in the playoffs) is a good one. Would it have been Ashton, or Kadri? Colborne?

    Who do they have in the system now that could make a difference in the playoffs?

    In fairness, these are all young guys. They'll (hopefully) be ready to contribute significantly in two to three seasons come springtime...

    Thanks.

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  18. I like what I've seen of Carter, too, Bobby. He looks like a player, for sure (though it's early, and he's working hard to impress...)

    It is funny how coaches are almost always fired and then just out of the organization. A few days before they were good enough to make split-second decisions that could impact game outcomes. Then, they're just gone, as though they have nothing to contribute. Larry Robinson in New Jersey has been around there off and on for years...

    I well recall your comments on Wilson's goaltender "management". But the timing of his dismissal was a bit peculiar to me, too.

    Thanks Bobby.

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  19. I may have a more in-depth comment to make later, but I wanted to quickly address the Ashton thing.

    I do understand the idea that 'meritocracy', the idea Burke wants to vindicate himself, and the passing over of other players all conflict when you see Ashton brought up. But, I want to suggest otherwise, not to defend Burke, but as a possible reasoning...

    The Marlies are actually in a good spot, and there's whisper among some they could actually contend and go deep into the playoffs. That said, they are not home and cooled out.

    Carter Ashton 'just' arrived in Toronto. He's not mixed into the chemistry so much.

    What happens to the Marlies if you remove Colborne or Kadri for 5 or 10 games? It may help the Leafs get closer to playoffs, it likely diminishes the Marlies chances. I think developmentally, better they stay down and perhaps learn what it takes to be on a contender at that pro level than be up with the Leafs... just my opinion.

    As for Ryan Hamilton, I like him, but he's a 26 year old who is now having an AHL career year. I've seen enough Lonny Bohonos/Guy Larose/Don MacLean types... he's captaining a possible run in the AHL, leave him where he can be the most use.

    Sounds like by elimination, Ashton gets called up. But don't forget, new coach too... he may have specifically asked for Ashton, as part of changing the team/evaluating talent. We've seen Kadri and Colborne for spells, maybe Carlyle simply figures they'll get their look at training camp next fall.

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  20. Hey Michael, good post as always.

    Just something I wanted to mention on the Ashton call-up. I don't think it was necessarily what people think it was. To me it seems more like the Leafs season is more or less finished, while the Marlies are gearing up for what will hopefully be a long Calder Cup run, and pulling up a Kadri or Colborne or the captain Hamilton (who is really a career AHLer, let's be honest), would hurt the Marlies more than it would benefit the Leafs. That is, keep the Marlies team and chemistry intact for their playoff run while simultaneously seeing what kind of player we have in Carter Ashton.

    That said, I'm definitely disappointed in what Burke has accomplished (or rather not) so far in his tenure. The team is better and deeper, but much of that depth is middling talent, and aside from the potential of Colborne/Kadri and maybe Frattin, there really isn't any top-end talent. Those 3 young players are likely 2nd-3rd line kind of players. It's hard to knock Burke for not acquiring top-end talent though, as let's face it, how often does such talent become available for acquisition? Burke hasn't had high draft picks aside from Kadri, and this will be his first time since Kadri that he will have assets and a high pick. I'm interested to see what he does in the off-season before laying more judgment.

    I do however kinda wish that Burke would have taken at least one or two of the trades offered to him at the TDL for a first round pick and maybe taken a flier on one of Subban/Vasilevski just to get some goaltending prospects that aren't simply signed out of Europe. Of course, goaltending draft picks are usually 3-5 years from NHL ready.

    I dunno what I'm saying really I guess. I'm disappointed that this team isn't in the playoffs yet, but I don't think Burke has done a job so poor that it warrants talk of dismissal either. I think we can put fault on him for getting our hopes up in thinking this wasn't going to be a standard 4-5 year rebuild, when really that's what it has turned out to be. If Burke had said from the start that this was going to be a full rebuild, I don't think the fans would be as frustrated as they are now.

    If I temper my expectations in the thinking that Burke has been conducting a 4-5 yr rebuild, I'm less disappointed with the state of the franchise I suppose?

    Goaltending however, remains a point of serious concern.

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  21. Hey Mark- that's an entirely reasonable scenario. What you posture as a possibility may well have been the way things played out.

    I'm guessing you can appreciate, though, why I mentioned the things I did. (Agree on Hamilton...I guess I just feel that, as a loyal guy who has never played an NHL game, he deserve the kind of call-up that, say, Tim Brent received for the last game of the season a couple of years ago...)

    Thanks Mark...

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  22. Darryl, I think you've actually quite clearly identified what I have been trying to say here for some time.

    If Burke had simply - much earlier and with far less false bravado - acknowledged not just a "mistake" here or there, but that he misread the situation, yes, I think some fans would be more forgiving now.

    When you come to town like you're a saviour and build expectations and fail to deliver (at this point) it can be an issue. (Had he "read" the team he was re-building better, he may not have traded away what turned out to be the 2nd overall pick two years ago, and another high pick the following year.) So he gave away two high pick opportunities, and selected Kadri with a high pick the other year.

    And yes, if he had had acknowledged it was a 5-year plan (which, however, it wasn't initially), then people may have grown impatient, understandably so, but at least he would have been judged on that "plan". When you set high expectations and deliver below them, people won't be thrilled.

    People keep saying Burke is only in his third year. Truth is, he is well into his fourth year as GM here, having taken over in November, 2008. He has had four trading "deadlines", three drafts and three summer-free agency periods so far. No one was expecting a Cup by now- but the playoffs, yes.

    Thanks Darryl.

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